My little oration…
This is what I said at Phil Miller’s funeral. I was pretty sick and couldn’t organise a proper speech, so on the day I just spoke spontaneously and without notes. Herm asked me if I could get it down. It’s not quite verbatim but close ; –
‘When I first heard Phil’s music as a teenager I wanted to meet him. I had a mental profile of the kind of people I hoped I would encounter in life and you only had to hear a few bars of one of his passionate guitar solos or majestic compositions to suggest that here was someone who was not only a vital musician but also essentially a thoroughly decent human being with a great big heart.
I got to meet him properly when In Cahoots appeared with Caravan at the London Astoria sometime in the late nineties. We had a lot in common and got on well. He invited me round for a ‘cuppa’ and I was delighted to find that my positive instincts about the man behind the music were correct and so we became very good friends. I insisted upon it!
Musically he became something of a mentor to me. I was determined to learn something from his advanced harmonic systems in particular and really loved to play his compositions that he would tutor me through with endless patience and good humour as I waded through bar after bar of finger knotting chinese puzzles. He enjoyed my phrasing, and I was thrilled and honoured that he wrote Delta Borderline for me and employed me to play on various other tracks where he had crafted bespoke parts that were often complex but always beautifully logical. I have the happiest memories of recording those parts and hearing the music come to life. I have equally happy memories of his wild eyed expressions of maniacal glee accompanied by his trademark faux sadistic cackle as these increasingly fiendish parts were presented,
The man was absolutely indivisible from his music. To go for a walk with Phil was like enjoying one of his more serpentine pieces or solos. He would always want to take a less obvious turning just to see what was there. You could end up somewhere quite unexpected, or even jumping on a bus to somewhere of such dubious glamour as Romford on the pretext of going to a guitar shop, but really just for the pleasure of the trip out, the passing scenery and musings on lives glimpsed from the top deck. He took an almost incandescent delight in the most simple, mundane things. Parks, canals, railways stations, grey London streets… It was all grist to his creative mill. He was an earthy man, very connected to his environment and in tune with the pulses of life. At the same time there was an ethereal quality to him with a sense of awe and wonder at the depths and mysteries of the universe, underpinned by a keen intellect that he kept politely and very humbly hidden. He was not naturally demonstrative … but its all there in the music.
Phil’s working method was usually painstaking and methodical and he was full of gratitude to the extent that Herm (a fine artist in her own right) supported him in this. Indeed it was abundantly clear how much he appreciated her and her boundless love and support generally. She was a major contributor the the fact that I would grade Phil as a basically happy and content person, and also that his music could be bought into existence at all.
Yes, Phil was a truly loving and beautiful soul first and his music sprung organically from that. You could never think of him without affection and the most vivid metaphor I can think of for him was as a warm heater in a cold room. HIs energy was such that his very presence would improve the general sense of well being in any gathering. His vibes were inspiring and you wanted to spread them far and wide. He didn’t think of himself as a spiritual person but he truly was, in that deepest sense, and I honestly cannot think of a finer tribute to anyone than to be able to say that.’